Preface: It’s no secret that I love Fort Wayne. I grew up in a tiny town full of the same type of people with the same background. When I moved here in 2008, Fort Dub instantly felt like home: somewhere that finally fit, somewhere I could stretch my legs, and somewhere I could love that might show me a little love in return. That’s why I don’t understand people who don’t appreciate and respect the city as much as I do. And so here’s the thing…
I’ve interviewed scads of people who went to school in Fort Wayne, grew up here, or lived here at some point in their lives. A disturbing number of these folks act like they’re ashamed of their roots, downplaying them or preferring not to mention them at all. When they tell their life stories to others, they’ll say they grew up in California or graduated from IU or Purdue (as opposed to IPFW).
How sad that must be to feel as if you have to construct an identity instead of embracing the one you built over the course of a lifetime. Rather than feeling as if you have the power to influence the perception of a place, the place is given the power to influence the perception of you.
But you, my friend, are not powerless. All it takes is a little bit of honesty–with yourself and the world–and respect for your own history. “[C]hange your leaves, keep intact your roots,” urged Victor Hugo. The leaves cannot prosper without a healthy root system.
That analogy works for the city of Fort Wayne, as well. All of you who have moved away to different cities, states, and even countries–you are part of the city’s root system, part of its history. Acting like that’s something to be ashamed of makes you a blight on the tree. And maybe you don’t care about that… but then, I ask, why are you still reading this post?
How can we foster a sense of pride in Fort Wayne if people aren’t willing to go to bat for it? What happened to leading by example? And who says you can’t make a name for yourself in the world while being proud of your Fort Wayne roots?
The city is going through a rebrand of sorts. We’re investing in our downtown, communities, and citizens. We have more people than ever trying to make this a damn good place to live, work, and play. We’re working hard to change things from the inside; how about a little help from the outside? Imagine the boost these efforts would receive if former residents dropped this act of shame and instead adopted the attitude of brand ambassadors–not only for Fort Wayne but also for their own identities and histories. Give credit where it’s due. Anything else is a sham.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” ― Dalai Lama XIV